It's not just for gluten-free baking

Margaret Eby
March 18, 2019
Getty/Alberto Guglielm

Gluten-free flour substitutes are a godsend for baking. Rather than fuss with ratios of tapioca and xantham gum, you can just substitute a gluten-free flour like Cup4Cup as you would with regular old all-purpose flour. But one thing that I hadn't considered until speaking with Matt Aita, the Executive Chef of gluten-free restaurant The Little Beet Table, is that sometimes gluten-free flour substitute isn't just a substitute for regular flour, it can actually improve the whole dish. 

It makes sense, if you think about it. There are various applications of flour in which you're trying hard not to develop gluten in whatever you're baking, because gluten not only gives baked goods structure, it can also make them tough if it develops too much. That's why when you're making biscuits, you want to use flour that has weaker gluten bonds than when you're making bread, for example. Because gluten-free flour can't, by definition, develop any gluten, it's the ideal ingredient for certain dishes where you're trying to prevent that structure from forming in the first place. 

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One example of that phenomenon? Gnocchi. "Gluten-free flour makes great gnocchi," explained Aita. "It doesn't get tough because it can't develop that toughness that gluten builds." The only trick to it is watching the liquid. Gnocchi with gluten-free flour usually needs a little more moisture. 

Gluten-free flour can also be particularly good when it comes to developing a crisp exterior, thanks to the portion of rice flour that the substitute contains. "One other thing I can think of that benefits by using specifically Cup4Cup: Fried Chicken! Because of the rice flour and cornstarch, you get a super crisp coat without it being doughy or gummy," Aita said.